Copyright Act now covers online streaming too

Since Internet broadcasting was not covered under the copyright law so far, music rights owners used to have an upper hand in deciding royalties


Now, music companies such as T-Series, Tips and streaming websites have to approach the copyright board to decide royalty on songs. Photo: iStockphoto
Now, music companies such as T-Series, Tips and streaming websites have to approach the copyright board to decide royalty on songs. Photo: iStockphoto

New Delhi: In a move that will benefit audio streaming websites such as Saavn and Gaana as well as artistes, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has brought Internet broadcasting under the ambit of the copyright law.

Now, music companies such as T-Series, Tips and streaming websites have to approach the copyright board to decide royalty on songs. Since Internet broadcasting was not covered under the copyright Act so far, music rights owners used to have an upper hand in deciding royalties to be paid by streaming websites and were not bound to share the revenues with artists.

In a notification, DIPP said it has received representations from various stakeholders as to whether Internet broadcasting companies come under the purview of statutory licensing under section 31D of the Copyrights Act, 1957. “These representations were examined in consultation with concerned ministries/departments,” it said.

In its interpretation of the section 31D, DIPP said the words “any broadcasting organisation desirous of communicating to the public” may not be restrictively interpreted to be covering only radio and television broadcasting as definition of “broadcast” read with “communication to the public” appears to be including all kinds of broadcast including Internet broadcasting. “Thus, the provisions of section 31D are not restricted to radio and television broadcasting organisations only, but cover internet broadcasting organisations also,” it added.

Pratibha Singh, an intellectual property (IP) lawyer, said the decision recognizes that the Internet has become a powerful medium. “Now, music right holders have to share with any internet player that wants to avail of their content in return of payment of a royalty. They can no longer hold back their content from any internet broadcaster and share it exclusively with a competing player. This will also benefit artists who will now get their share of royalty from revenue generated from online dissemination of the content,” she added.

However, Saikrishna Rajagopal, managing partner at Noida-based law firm Saikrishna and Associates, said the statutory licensing provision of content was made for conventional media such as radio and television. “The new interpretation given by DIPP through a notification to bring internet into the ambit of the copyright law takes it beyond the scope of the Act. It could seriously impact the music right owners’ ability to enter into voluntary licensing agreements with internet broadcasters,” Rajagopal said.

Kumar Taurani, managing director, Tips Industries Ltd said: “The government had brought about an amendment in the copyright law in 2012, to the best of my knowledge to set up a tribunal for the resolution of disputes. There are many ifs and buts involved, but we music companies believe in Indian law and will always abide by it.”

Gaana’s chief operating officer Prashan Agarwal welcomed the move. “We are not surprised at this extremely logical clarification issued by DIPP. Our industry association IAMAI had made several representations to the government on this subject. This clarification removes any doubts anybody ever had. We welcome this clarification from the ministry,” Agarwal said.

An email questionnaire sent to Saavn went unanswered till the time of going to press.

T-Series president Neeraj Kalyan said they hadn’t seen the order yet, and will review and take legal recourse as and when they do. This is the first change by the DIPP after the government shifted the copyright-related issues from the department of higher education to DIPP, making the latter the nodal agency for all intellectual property matters.

Commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman has also hinted about strict enforcement of the copyright law under its new intellectual property rights (IPR) policy. “We have to stop this. It tarnishes the image of the country,” Sitharaman said on 17 May.

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